Ghosting? Breadcrumbing? Dating slang and the workplace

Published on September 24, 2019 by Camille Brouard
Ghosting in the workplace

The online dating world has introduced a lot of new words to the English lexicon. Though technology has allowed people to find romance more easily, dating websites and apps have also given people more opportunities to lie to potential paramours. In response to this, slang terms have come along to address some of the less favourable experiences people have when dating online.

Dating slang and the workplace

Many of the negative behaviours described in online dating contexts can apply to the workplace too. Relationships can be forged and broken in all areas of life; work is no exception. It’s easy to see why people have started using online dating slang to describe job related situations, especially as technology has drastically changed our working environments too.

‘Ghosting’ and ‘breadcrumbing’ are the terms that have been finding their way into conversations about work most prominently. However, there are plenty of other dating slang terms that could easily feature in a working context. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular online dating slang and how they apply to the workplace.

Ghosting in the workplace


In a dating context, ghosting refers to someone disappearing from another person’s life instead of telling them they’re no longer interested in dating them. The ‘ghoster’ avoids a difficult conversation; however, the situation can be confusing and hurtful for the person who has been ghosted.

People have since recognised that this can happen in the workplace too. When people discuss workplace ghosting, they’re usually talking about a job candidate skipping an interview or an employee simply no longer turning up to work and not giving notice. Again, the person avoids an awkward conversation, but the situation can be operationally and financially damaging for an employer.

Occasionally, employers can be guilty of ghosting too, though not without at least some basic communication; for example, in 2018 an Amazon warehouse worker reported that allegedly many seasonal workers were fired via text. From an HR angle, that’s not good practice!


Catfishing is a notorious concept in the dating realm. Someone catfishes others online by pretending to be a completely different person. This could be due to a lack of self-confidence or for more malicious purposes, but nevertheless catfishing damages trust. In some cases, fake bot accounts also catfish people – often into giving away money or personal information.

In the world of work, there’s a similar word that sends shivers down employers’ spines: phishing. Phishing emails can be incredibly sophisticated, even to the point where a scammer impersonates a colleague or client. Sometimes employees can fall into the phishing net, giving away sensitive information and causing major security breaches.

Learn more: How to protect your business against phishing scams



On the opposite end of the spectrum to ghosting, you have breadcrumbing. Instead of an abrupt and silent finish to the relationship, in a breadcrumbing situation one person strings the other along for as long as possible, when in reality they have little or no interest in the other person.

In the working world, someone can experience breadcrumbing when their manager or employer makes vague promises about career progression (such as training or a promotion) but nothing materialises. At an even earlier stage, this could surface as a drawn-out hiring period that ultimately doesn’t lead to a job. According to a BBC article on the workplace phenomenon, “breadcrumbing gives you “just enough” to keep you on the line”.

A culture of breadcrumbing, even if it’s unintentional, can be damaging for a company’s reputation. It can have a negative impact on employee satisfaction and boost turnover rates. Creating staff development plans and ensuring you only promise progression that can be genuinely offered will help avoid such situations.

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In the dating world, this word describes when a person hides the fact that they’re dating other people from their new partner. When confronted, the roacher claims they thought they had a non-monogamous relationship from the get-go, though this was never openly discussed.

When it comes to the workplace, a form of roaching can occur too; job candidates and even employees may be looking elsewhere for better offers than the current role. At the recruitment stage, it’s acceptable that candidates may be looking for roles elsewhere, just as employers are looking at multiple people for a role. When current employees are looking to competitors, this can be more damaging for the business. Hence, many contracts include restrictions on working for competitors or with former clients.

Learn more: 8 alternative recruitment strategies to find your next employee



Kittenfishing is a lighter form of catfishing. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to deal with and have lasting damage, in the dating world or the working world! When someone is kittenfishing on a dating app, they portray a very unrealistic version of themselves; they may use outdated or photoshopped profile pictures, or exaggerate about their career or hobbies.

As job hunting is another situation where everyone wants to put their best foot forward, kittenfishing can be rife here too. Think about all the candidate CVs out there listing skills and experiences that are greatly exaggerated, if not made up! This is often something employers vet for at the interview stage. However, there’s always a possibility that a kittenfish can slip through the net if they’re convincing enough.

Avoid these situations for better working relationships

The increasingly instant and online nature of the world has been both a gift and a curse for human relationships. We’re able to communicate more effectively and flexibly in our working and personal lives with technology. However, the same developments can make it easier for people to cut corners and act dishonestly when it comes to meaningful communication.

The application of dating terms to the workplace is a telling trend; working relationships are moving with the times, just as much as those outside the office. Understanding phenomena like ghosting and catfishing can help us identify these behaviours at work and address them. This can help everyone foster more honest and effective communication for healthier working relationships.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

Are romantic relationships in the workplace illegal?

How to handle office romance - a quick guide for SMEs

Employee birthdays and other milestones - are they worth celebrating?

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Written by Camille Brouard

Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.

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